Virginia Guard’s 183rd RTI trains new rappel masters

Soldiers from around the nation face their final challenge Sept. 28 during the Aircraft Command and Control evaluation as part of the U.S. Army’s Rappel Master Course taught by rappel masters and instructors of the 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute at Fort Pickett. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Terra C. Gatti, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

FORT PICKETT, Va. — Instructors and rappel masters from the Virginia Guard’s 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute taught the U.S. Army’s Rappel Master Course Sept. 24-28 at the RTI with a starting class of 26 Soldiers from around the nation.

“The point of the rappel master course is essentially to advance the techniques that they learned from air assault school,” said Sgt. 1st Class Robert J. Homer, noncommissioned officer in charge for the rappel master course. “Once they leave here they can rappel personnel off towers and off aircraft and hopefully any rotary wing platform the Armed Forces has.”

During the five-day course, Soldiers hoping to become rappel masters learn how to tie and utilize knots commonly used during rappelling operations, how to inspect, rig and maintain rappelling equipment, how to inspect and identify deficiencies in the seats of rappellers, aircraft command and control during rappelling as well as hand and arm signals and hook-up procedures.

“The end goal for us as cadre is to get as many people as possible to successfully complete the course so they can take the knowledge and ability to be a rappel master back to their units,” explained Staff Sgt. Joshua Bridwell, rappel master instructor.

Students undergo evaluations throughout the course and are tested on each block of instruction they receive. On the written test, Soldiers must achieve a score of 70 percent or higher. The equipment inspection evaluation requires students to inspect five items of equipment, identifying any unserviceable items within two minutes. The knot test requires Soldiers in the course to correctly tie four different knots, each within 30 seconds or less. During the hook-up test, students must inspect two hook-ups, each within 10 seconds, identifying all deficiencies.

Sgt. Daniel Jarrell, from the Lynchburg-based 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, undergoes his Aircraft Command and Control evaluation Sept. 28 during the Rappel Master Course held at Fort Pickett. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Terra C. Gatti, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

One of the most difficult evaluations conducted during the course is the Rappel Master Personnel Inspection test, which requires students to conduct a physical inspection of Soldiers preparing to rappel. Rappel master students are required to inspect three rappellers, one without combat equipment, called the “Hollywood style,” one in semi-combat mode wearing a load-bearing vest and carrying a weapon, and another in combat mode, wearing a load-bearing vest, weapon and rucksack, all within three minutes and 30 seconds. Soldiers must identify all major deficiencies and all but two minor deficiencies in order to pass the test.

“This is what gets most people,” said Sgt. Daniel Jarrell, a student in the class from the Lynchburg-based 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. “This has the highest attrition rate of the course.”

“The RMPI is the deal breaker that drops 60 percent of the class,” said Sgt. 1st Class Donald Gum, a recruiter from the Alaska National Guard and rappel master hopeful. “The only way to really prepare for that is to study, study, study and not to let it get to you. You just have to let it go – if you pass, you pass, if you fail, you fail – but you don’t want to go in there already mentally defeated.”

The final day of the course is comprised of the aircraft command and control evaluation. In order to successfully pass this final phase of the course, and move on to earn their rappel master certifications, Soldiers much use proper hand and arm signals, issue commands and accurately perform all tasks and procedures while overseeing other rappellers as they rappel from a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter. Rappel master students must ensure the safety of the rappellers from the moment they enter the aircraft to the time they are safely on the ground, while also ensuring required rappelling procedures are followed.

“Rappeling is part of our job,” said Gum. “You want to make sure, whether you’re rappelling Soldiers or civilians, that everyone is getting safely from Point A to Point B.”

National Guard and Reserve Soldiers from states including Alaska, Maryland, North Carolina, Florida, Virginia, Georgia, Nevada, Kansas, Kentucky, Texas, and Ohio were represented in the class.

The 13 Soldiers that graduated from the course will earn a rappel master certification card which will qualify them to conduct rappelling operations both on the ground and on an aircraft, inspect rigged rappellers and also train rappellers.

To view photos from the event, visit:
Virginia Guard’s 183rd RTI trains new rappel masters – Sept. 25, 2012
http://www.flickr.com/photos/vaguardpao/sets/72157631628021326/

Soldiers face final challenge in achieving Rappel Master Certification — Sept. 28, 2012
http://www.flickr.com/photos/vaguardpao/sets/72157631646031527/